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Threat of `e-waste' piling up, experts say
The Washington Post
January 23, 2005

In today's high-tech era, the temptation for upgrades is everywhere: a slimmer cell phone, a sleeker desktop, a sportier BlackBerry.

But the consequences of the constant quest for better gadgetry are piling up. Every time last year's monitor is chucked, it becomes a piece of potentially hazardous waste.

More than three years after federal and industry officials began to talk about how to cope with the "e-waste" problem, the situation has only deteriorated. Americans dispose of 2 million tons of electronic products a year--including 50 million computers and 130 million cell phones--and by 2010, the nation will be discarding 400 million electronic units annually, according to the International Association of Electronics Recyclers in Albany, N.Y.

Environmentalists say the rising tide of electronic waste is slowly degrading in landfills and rivers in the U.S. and abroad, posing a serious threat to water and air. Computers, televisions and other advanced devices contain neurotoxins and carcinogens such as lead and beryllium that are leaching into waterways and entering the air through burning or dust, they say.

With little notice, e-waste has become one of the fastest-growing sectors in the solid-waste stream, and technology products now account for as much as 40 percent of the lead in U.S. landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Regulators and manufacturers are struggling to devise a comprehensive solution to one of the nation's newest environmental predicaments. But only a patchwork of state regulations has emerged.

Copyright (c) 2005, Chicago Tribune